A Brighton jazz club has been nominated for two prestigious awards in its tenth anniversary year, writes Paul Williams. The Verdict, on Edward Street, has been named as venue of the year in the Parliamentary jazz awards 2022 and shortlisted as one of the top ten jazz clubs in Europe by The Guardian Newspaper.
The city’s only purpose-built jazz venue is packing in the punters again after being hit by Covid and has re-introduced the legendary Sunday sessions in Dorset Gardens (adjacent to the club) throughout the summer where a relaxed vibe and cool music can be found. Since that opening day in March 2012 the club has played host to numerous big names from the British and American jazz scene and is now recognised as Brighton’s premier jazz club.
By day, The Verdict is a café, serving delicious food and real coffee, but when darkness falls this intimate little setting, described as Brighton’s best kept secret, takes on a new identity as a ‘proper jazz club’ regarded by many musicians as one of the best venues to play in the UK. Like most jazz clubs, the venue is small with an intimate stage and crackling atmosphere. Adorned with photos of jazz legends, the club has made a name for itself by attracting the best talent the world of jazz has to offer. The performance space (which has a capacity of 60) is in the basement of the club, and a cosy little café and bar is situated on the ground floor.
Multi- talented drummer, percussionist and video producer Tristan Banks has been a leading light on the local jazz scene for many years and was the driving force behind a Concert for Ukraine in March which heralded the reopening of the club. He also led the successful Lockdown Sessions project, which saw weekly live concerts being streamed straight from the stage.
Born and raised in Brighton, Banks began drumming at the age of four and has worked all over the world. With over 30 years of playing and teaching experience, (his free classes can be found on YouTube) he has built a solid reputation as a first- class drummer and percussionist who has worked with some stellar names. He also tours extensively, performing at the likes of the Royal Albert Hall, Shepherds Bush Empire and Glastonbury Festival.
Despite his extensive touring schedule, he is a keen advocate of The Verdict, taking to the stage regularly with his own band The Tristan Banks Trio. The venue was affected gravely by Covid, and Banks was instrumental in bringing the club back to life, taking on various roles from booker and manager through to website designer and chef. Thanks to its legion of loyal fans, the club is now back up and running with gigs regularly sold out.
Jazz, it seems, is part of the city’s DNA, The Brighton Jazz Co-operative, for example, provide workshops for amateur and budding musicians who wish to play jazz in a relaxed and welcoming environment. Led by professional tutors, the sessions are fun and informal, focusing on three elements of music: rhythm, melody, and harmony. This not-for-profit organisation, formed in 1986, has had some of the UK’s best known jazz musicians leading its classes and is run exclusively by volunteers. The workshops (which cost £8) are open to musicians of all abilities and structured in an informal but educational way, requiring no ongoing commitment from participants.
With a host of other jazz clubs, along with the various workshops and classes taking place around the city, it’s no wonder Brighton continues to attract the best British and international jazz artists to play in the wonderful and intimate venues the city has to offer. If you have ever fancied listening to (or even taking up) jazz Brighton is certainly the place to do it.
Paul Williams is a freelance features writer based in North Yorkshire.